Building bridges over troubled waters

August 12, 2003

Brussels, 11 Aug 2003

With the growing risk of flooding in recent years, the European Union is working hard to find watertight forecasting, prevention and management solutions. An upcoming Commission publication showcases these efforts to beat back the tide.

Whatever the causes of global warming, one thing appears certain: Europe is becoming warmer and wetter as temperatures rise. Two of the last five years have topped the charts as the warmest on record, upsetting seasonal patterns – often to devastating effect.

Although Europe has escaped the kind of extreme weather events endured in other parts of the world, widespread flooding has been a major problem in recent years. The new year was ushered in with hurricane force winds and torrential rains lashing across Europe, while last summer saw unusually heavy rainfall across much of the mainland. "Floods wreak havoc – they are a menace to public safety, disrupt people's daily lives, threaten our cultural heritage, and inflict enormous economic losses," the forthcoming leaflet produced by the Research Directorate-General (DGR) notes. But it is wrong to think that we can control or prevent floods, the leaflet warns. We can only manage them, it points out.

Stop the rain, dam it!

The traditional solution to flooding has been what the leaflet terms "heavy structural interventions", such as dams, dykes and barriers. Unfortunately, these solutions often shift problems elsewhere, create new ones or have devastating effects if they fail.

There has been a growing realisation in recent years that a broader approach was (and is) necessary. The European Union has been following several avenues of research as part of a comprehensive strategy to mitigate the devastating impact of floods: enhancing forecasting and river management decision-making and techniques.

'Floods' is one in a series of leaflets produced by DGR's Information and Communication unit to show European research in action. Previous series have covered a wide range of subjects including disasters, global change, antibiotics resistance, communicable diseases, renewable energy, recycling cars, aeronautics, and employment. Topics covered in the 2003 series include forensic science, nuclear fusion, research for people with disabilities, animal welfare, science and youth and, of course, Floods.

In October, the Commission will be holding a special press briefing entitled 'Managing rivers and floods' to outline its efforts in this field.

DG Research ndex_en.html ines/index_en.cfm

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